New report says Lake Ontario most threatened of Great Lakes

A report by the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project determined Lake Ontario is the most threatened of the five Great Lakes, followed by Lake Erie.

Lake Ontario landed its "worst" status because of widespread mercury and PCB pollution, and problems stemming from invasive sea lampreys and zebra and quagga mussels. Lake Ontario is a vital part of the economy in several Central New York towns and villages, including Oswego.

Researchers spent more than three years collecting data on 34 lake "stressors" - including invasive species, climate change and pollution. The report includes a series of interactive maps that often show Lake Ontario in red as an indication of the severity of the stressors.

Dave White of the New York Sea Grant Program located at SUNY Oswego told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "We always have to put in it context. Thinking back to the '70's when we talked about significant pollution and environmental issues affecting the Great Lakes, we're a lot better off than we were then."

White feels the "worst" status may benefit New York when it comes to grants and other funds for environmental research. "This provides an opportunity to reinforce with folks that many of our watersheds... are in jeopardy. There's a lot of things that need to be looked at and corrected and here's what those things are."

The report comes on the heels of one of the best years on record for fishing in Oswego County which borders Lake Ontario. Sport fishing accounts for $40 million for tourism and related economic activity. According to Oswego County's director of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, "We're hoping that the stressors that have been identified are ones that are easily mitigated... it is one of the finest fisheries in the world."

Lake Erie was deemed the second most threatened because of toxic blue-green algae and invading species of fish, mussels and plants.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)